Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off with Jocular Joey Edsall, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Doctor Strange...
Doctor Strange #384 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): One of the most interesting aspects of Doctor Strange #384 is how what may have once been seen as an indecisive flaw in Donny Cates' writing — the spotlight sharing between Stephen Strange and Loki — is now one of the comic's greatest strengths. The aforementioned characters, along with Zelma Stanton, are noteworthy in the active roles all three play on the plot. The story is affected directly by their actions, with nothing feeling contrived, and the comic's reveal of the secret that Strange kept hidden away pays off the intrigue of both Loki's obsession with the door and the Sentry's involvement in the plot. Cates' deft grasp of the characters allow his often absurd juxtapositions between the mundane and the mystical feel grounded, and truly heightens the drama of the action sequences. Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta continues to make Doctor Strange one of the more distinct-looking comics in Marvel's lineup, and holds nothing back in Stephen and Loki's mystical showdown. Color artist Jordie Bellaire, meanwhile, is particularly impressive as she utilizes a wider palette range than most comics while making nothing seem out of place. For the art and for Cates' already strong authorial voice becoming even more distinctive, it's hard not to be excited for the rest of Cates' run.
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #3 (Published by DC Comics and IDW Publishing; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): James Tynion, Ryan Ferrier and Freddie Williams turn in a really solid issue with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #3. The plot definitely just moves the chains along a bit, but we get to see some fun interplay between the Turtles and Damian. There’s a lot of overlap in themes between the Turtles and the Bat-family, so it's fun to see Tynion and Ferrier explore that here. And while some of the dialogue might feel a little over the top, it’s hard not to smile at it. Ferrier’s Bane in particular chews a lot of scenery (maybe an appropriately grandiose personality considering his stature) and the trash talk between Damian and Raphael is strong. Freddie Williams III is a great fit for this book, splitting the difference between Kevin Eastman’s gritty style and more modern expectations of superhero comic book art. There’s a certain stylized approach here that allows Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to exist in concert that helps sell the presence of these characters in the same world.
Star Wars Adventures #6 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) It’s the Rose Tico! Writer Delilah S. Dawson delivers an absolutely adorable Rose story in Wednesday’s Star Wars Adventures #6, the latest in IDW’s young reader-oriented Star Wars anthology series. Dawson perfectly captures the enthusiasm and smarts that made Rose such a standout in The Last Jedi, paired with excellent space battle sequences from illustrator Derek Charm. Writer Shaun Manning’s "Podracer’s Rescue" is a fun look back at young Anakin Skywalker — artist Chad Thomas’ take on baby podracer Anakin is charmingly cute, and colorist Charlie Kirchoff keeps the deserts of Tatooine from getting too overwhelmingly beige. An additional shoutout to letterer Tom B. Long, who pulls double duty on both shorts, for his delightful visual effects. This is a great series to pick up for younger readers who are itching to get in on Star Wars with their parents, and this week’s issue is especially fun. Pew pew!
The Mighty Thor #703 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dr. Jane Foster is fully committed to the mantle of Thor — so committed she continues to miss the chemotherapy treatments she desperately needs. When her devotion to Mjolnir finally leaves her too weak to keep fighting for the lives of others, will her friends be able to convince her to focus on fighting for her own? Writer Jason Aaron finally delivers on the existential dilemma that’s been plaguing Dr. Foster since she first took up the mantle — villains like Malekith won’t rest long enough for her to rest and attempt to recover. Aaron’s dialogue is at times overwrought, even for a scenario as melodramatic and dangerous as the one facing our heroes in The Mighty Thor #703, but artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson deliver some truly incredible Asgardian action sequences. This issue packs an emotional wallop both on Midgard and Asgard and leaves readers hanging with a vital question: is this the end of Dr. Foster’s days as the Goddess of Thunder?
Damage #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): There’s a disjointed current through Damage #1, as each of the comic’s three main acts feel like the start to their own type of story. The comic immediately feels like a Hulk story but with a sense of urgency as a result of an ever-present digital clock counting down Ethan Avery’s time remaining as the titular antihero. A conceit like this could carry an entire story, but winds up being abandoned halfway through despite interesting moments where characters talk about time or when Colonel Jonas’ personal clock takes the place of the overlaid one. The fact that this, as well as the interesting moments where Ethan’s internal dialogue shows his struggles as Damage, are abandoned for the sake of the comic’s end reveal of the Suicide Squad, a moment that seems to crystallize the lack of faith that writers Tony S. Daniels and Robert Venditti have in their central character. The potential that earlier parts of Damage #1 show makes this particularly frustrating to read. As a purely aesthetic experience, artist Danni Miki and colorist Tomeu Morey create a visual spectacle balances a level of chaos with an attention to detail that never lets the panels lose a sense of space, making it more artistically cohesive work than a narratively cohesive comic.
James Bond: The Body #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Striking artwork keeps 007 moving in James Bond: The Body #1, even if the actual story being depicted feels far too decompressed. Artist Luca Casalanguida portrays James Bond's world of intrigue and violence with a classic, gorgeous style not dissimilar from Lee Weeks or Goran Parlov - given that his first image of Bond is seeing him black-eyed and scarred up, it's surprising that Casalanguida's work is still so strikingly beautiful. (Colorist Valentina Pinto also deserves plenty of credit: she might be some of the best colorwork I've seen from Dynamite in quite some time, with some beautiful rendering that heightens Casalanguida's intensity.) That all said, while writer Ales Kot gets Bond's sardonic sense of humor, this story is definitely stretched to its very limit — beyond a cute bit where Bond drolly exaggerates his mission to his doctor, the narrative can't help but feel a little thin, as the issue is primarily Bond infiltrating a dinner party and then dispatching a would-be assassin. While the story may not be anything to write home about just yet, the fantastic art team does James Bond: The Body good.
Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc. Omega #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Symbiotes are a touchy subject for Spidey fans. Some people love them. Some people love to hate them. Venom Inc. involves a new symbiote host and his new mind control abilities, but Dan Slott and Mike Costa don’t have any depth to add to the overall concept. The characters largely end up in the same place they started and the pacing is all over the place. The takedown of Maniac is not inventive or exciting - it’s just about what you might expect in a story that features an Anti-Venom. Even the banter and witticisms leave something to be desired, probably a result of having multiple writers on the issue. Ryan Stegman and Gerardo Sandoval’s art doesn’t mesh particularly well, and neither is on top of their game here. Part of the problem is that the snow-covered locale just isn’t visually interesting, and Maniac is simply a giant, sometimes obese version of Venom. The symbiotes remain a hard part of the Spider-Man legacy to reinvent when there are so many of them running around. Here’s hoping someone can find something interesting to do with them moving forward.
Superman #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason team up with artist Barry Kitson to deliver a heart-warming one-and-done issue of Superman that focuses less on punching and more about the inspiration superheroes can give kids in need. With the Man of Steel and the Justice League taking a ward of hospitalized children to the Watchtower, you can't help but feel a little happy, particularly with one scavenger hunt item winds up being a snapshot of Batman smiling. But Tomasi and Gleason walk a tightrope with their subject matter, and they stick the landing deftly, especially when Superman quickly comforts a child whose friend died before they could make the trip. Kitson's artwork is clean and unthreatening here, and while that makes the obligatory superheroics of the first scene look a little goofy, he makes the tone of the rest of the storyline work. This issue is a feel-good detour that may be a little low in storytelling calories, but it's the kind of one-off I'm glad exists.
Jupiter Jet #2 (Published by Action Lab Entertainment; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jacky flies back into action in this week’s exciting installment of Jupiter Jet #2, but when the villainous Praetor Pluto gets closer and closer to working out Jupiter’s secret identity, will Jacky and Chuck make it out alive? Writers Jason Inman and Ashley Victoria Robinson deliver another solid installment in this Rocketeer-esque, young reader-friendly miniseries. Jacky and Chuck are charming and believable young protagonists (at least, believable in the Dick Tracey-esque world of Jupiter Jet #2) and the entire creative team does an excellent job building up the eerie and mysterious underworld led by Praetor Pluto, from the dialogue to the shadowy colors. Artist Ben Matsuya and colorist Mara Jayne Carpenter capture the series’ retro-futuristic style perfectly with bold lines and bright colors, while letterer Taylor Esposito does a stellar job helping the dialogue pop with eye-catching injections of color. Jupiter Jet is a light-hearted action-adventure series that any young sci-fi fan can enjoy.